Flickr ©Toby Oxborrow

The term Jidoka used in Toyota Production System can be defined as “Automation with a human touch”. It refers simply to the ability of humans or machines to detect an abnormal condition in materials, machines, or methods, and to prevent the abnormality from being passed on to the next process. Jidoka incorporates quality checks into every step of the production process by providing machines and operators the ability to detect when an abnormal condition has occurred and immediately stop work. This enables operations to build in quality at each process and to separate men and machines for more efficient work.

Through Jidoka you don’t just stop the process. You highlight the problem, correct it and then tackle root cause to prevent the problem ever happening again. So initially through a painful series of line stops you start to remove problems from the process, within a short period of time the number of line stops begin to reduce as problems are removed and productivity begins to improve as root causes of problems are eliminated.

Within companies such as Toyota, line stop is a way of life. If an operator detects a problem they pull a cord or push a button to stop the production line at the end of that production cycle. It lights up an Andon board which alerts the team leader or supervisor who will immediately rush over to help solve the problem. If it can be easily corrected then they do so and restart the line, otherwise they call in whatever support is required to solve the problem.

The implementation of Jidoka relies on a mix of cultural concepts and lean tools that are summarized below:

Develop a Jidoka Mindset – Staff should be trained to react to problems and to put in place quick fixes. The concept is to keep things running for as long as possible and work around problems as quickly as possible.

Empower staff to ‘stop the line’ – Develop a culture where people feel that they are able to raise a real issue- and that far from being penalized, they will actually be thanked for raising the issue.

Install andons – The aim is that andons quickly alert managerial and technical staff to a problem that arises so that they can get to the source of the problem and begin to investigate it.

Solve the root cause – Jidoka relies on the implementation of an immediate fix to stem the potential damage and on the longer-term fix that comes through root cause analysis.

Utilize standard work – Having implemented the changes it is vital to document what has been done and to carry out any training required on the new process.

Asprova’s ingenious features highlight the causes of problem immediately when a difficulty first occurs. Thus, it leads to improvements in the processes that build in quality by eliminating the root causes of defects. In this way, facts and findings acquired from Asprova are often used in conjunction with structured problem-solving tools.


Seven Types of Waste

Flickr © Graham Hellewell

Taiichi Ohno, the architect of the Toyota Production System developed the concept of ‘MUDA’ (無駄) or ‘’Waste’  is applicable equally to both manufacturing and the service sector of the economy. These seven wastes are described below:

Over-Production: This usually happens because of working with oversize batches, long lead times and poor supplier relations. The key element of  JIT is making only the quantity required of any component or product. Sound stock management procedures and production techniques are necessary to ensure that the correct quantities are ordered and made.

(Read also Just In Time Schedule)

Excessive Inventory: Unwanted inventory costs you money – besides, it needs space and packaging. It can also get damaged during transportation and become obsolete. Every piece of product tied up in work in progress or finished goods have a cost and until it is sold that cost have to be borne. So the objective is to carry as little as possible to meet the requirements (see here how one company reduced finished goods inventory by 62.8%).

Waiting Time: Machines that are not compatible and produce at different rates can cause waiting on the production line. So processes become ineffective and add no value – only cost and inconvenience. Instead, the flow of operations should be smooth and continuous. Asprova supports eliminating unnecessary waiting time between processes by synchronizing multiple processes in the schedule.

Unnecessary Motions: It concerns the design of movement within the working environment as resources are wasted when workers have to end, reach or walk distances to do their jobs. It is vital to make sure that every movement is minimized while still performing the required task. So workplace ergonomics assessment should be conducted to design a more efficient environment.

Redundant Transportation: Moving a product between manufacturing processes adds no value, is expensive and can cause damage or product deterioration. So loads should be maximized; goods should be transported to the correct location and not require additional transportation.

Defects: Products should be designed so as to build in quality from the outset through good use of materials and processes. Defects require an organization to instigate post-manufacturing inspection processes with consequent costs and may involve re-working of an item or failure to meet customer service requirements.

In-appropriate Processing: A basic principle of the TPS is doing only what is appropriate. Improper techniques, oversize equipment, working to tolerances that are too tight, perform processes that are not required by the customer’s costs time and money. Hence overly elaborate and expensive equipment is wasteful if simpler machinery could do the job.

Asprova has always strive to go an extra mile by collaborating with their clients to eliminate overproduction and reduce stock-holdings, while minimizing stock-outs.



Photo Credit: Flickr ©Graham Hellewell

Taiichi Ohno


Taiichi Ohno was regarded as “ruthless” in his will to drive out waste from the Toyota production system. One day Ohno stepped into one of the large warehouses at Toyota Gosei and told the staff of managers around him, “Get rid of this warehouse and in one year I will come back and look! I want to see this warehouse made into a machine shop and I want to see everyone trained as machinists.” And not surprisingly, one year later that building became a machine shop and everyone had been retrained. This story resembles what kind of person he was.

Born in Dalian, Eastern China, Taiichi Ohno joined the Toyota Automatic Loom Works between the World Wars. Later he switched to work as a Production Engineer for the Toyota Motor Manufacturing towards the end of the Second World War, at a time when its productivity was way below that of the America’s mighty Detroit industry. After the World War II, Eiji Toyoda gave Ohno the crucial task to increase productivity and efficiency and get the struggling Toyota Motor company back on track.

In 1953, Ohno visited the USA to study Ford’s Production Method, but he was much more inspired by the American supermarkets. He noticed how customers would take from shelves only what they needed at that time, and how those stocks were quickly and precisely replenished. On his return to Japan, Ohno developed the same idea into the Toyota Production System known as the “Kanban”. In TPS, each production process sets out its wares for the next process to choose from just as a supermarket does. Thus production is “pulled” by the demand down the line rather than, as in previous assembly line systems, being “pushed” by the production rate higher up the line. Ohno had the same insights applied to a well-run warehouse, with ‘goods-in’ closely matching ‘goods-out’, and no space for long-term storage.

To improve process flow, Ohno decided that instead of putting the machines of one process together and to carry parts back and forth between processes, he would lay out the plant according to the operation flow. He then assigned one worker to more than one machine which gave birth to the theory of ‘One operator, many processes’. This system increased production efficiency 2-3 times than the mass production required.

Asprova’s Sales Order Scheduling feature synchronizes sales order from customers to manufacturing orders generated based on forecast which avoids overproduction, supporting the principle established by Ohno which cut back wastefulness and inefficiencies. Also our Auto-Replenishment Production feature can automatically generate production orders to replenish inventory when “pulled” by the demand to keep the inventory from falling below the safety stock level



Photo credits: © Toyota Motor Corporation

Toyota Production System

Flickr ©mrhayata

Flickr ©mrhayata

In the automobile manufacturing industry, the Toyota Production System (TPS) is considered to be a major breakthrough after the mass production system of Henry Ford. Withholding the philosophy of “the complete elimination of all waste”, the TPS embodies all aspects of production in pursuit of the most efficient methods. TPS has immerged after many years of devotion to continuous improvement with an aim to shortening product lead-times and implant uniformity of the final product. The objective of TPS is to “make quality vehicles ordered by customers in the quickest and the most efficient way, in order to deliver vehicles as quickly as possible”.

TPS is founded on two major concepts. The first one is “Jidoka”, which is automation with a human touch to highlight or visualize problem. Jidoka is an automated process that inspects each item after producing it. If no quality problem/defect is detected, the machine safely stops when the normal processing is completed. However, should quality/equipment problem arise, the machine detects the problem by itself and stops, preventing flawed products from being produced. Hence, only those products that satisfy quality standards will be passed on to the following processes on the production line. During initial phase of Toyota back in the 1930’s, when Sakichi Toyoda developed the automatic loom, it was designed to stop if the thread broke.

So it was there in the beginning of TPS and is considered one of the pillars of the TPS house. The second one is “Just-in-time”, making only “what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed!” Just in time provides a disciplined approach to improving overall productivity and eliminating waste. It provides for the cost-effective production and delivery of only the necessary quantity of parts at the right quality, at the right time and place, while using the minimum amount of facilities, equipment, materials and human resources. JIT is dependent on the balance between the supplier’s and the user’s flexibility. It is accomplished through the application of elements that require total employee involvement and teamwork. A key philosophy of JIT is simplification.

Asprova is complementary to the TPS philosophy, both combine ideally to improve quality, increase productivity and reduce overall manufacturing costs of a company’s production line. It generates schedule which fully integrates sales orders to manufacturing orders, and manufacturing orders to purchasing orders to enable true lead-time reduction and trim down inventory levels. Hence, Asprova supports to implement JIT which has its roots in the Toyota Production System.



Source: Prof C. A Voss , Just-in-Time Manufacture, IFS (Publications), Dec 31, 1987
Photo Credit: Flickr ©mrhayata



Model Factory by Toby Oxborrow

The concept of ‘Kaizen’ has its roots in the early quality management Gurus, particularly Deming and Juran. Deming’s initial message was about the need to measure product deviations and to continually reduce them. His message has been well received in the Japanese manufacturing industry where a thorough and meticulous approach to production has long been appreciated. Kaizen is the Japanese term for continuous improvement. “It is both a rigorous, scientific method of using statistical quality control and an adaptive framework of organizational values and beliefs that keep management and workers alike focused on zero defects”.

The Kaizen approach is there to increase a manufacturing firm’s competitiveness on an ongoing basis through a series of small, gradual improvements. If part of the process can be improved every week then the accumulated gains can be substantial. The Kaizen approach supports group working, quality circles and cross-functional teamwork in a way that encourages discussion throughout the organization. Continuous improvement is also an integral part of the JIT philosophy and, to be effective, must be adopted by each member of the organization, not only those that are directly involved in the production process.

Japanese companies, such as Toyota and Canon, a total of 60 to 70 suggestions per employee per year are written down, shared and implemented. However the improvements come mainly from those who do the work and the system must encourage workers to contribute by setting time aside, encouraging group working (‘Kaizen groups’) and suggestions. It involves setting goals and standards to be met and, when these have been achieved, increase it in such a way that they appear reasonable and achievable. The Japanese approach has not always travelled successfully to the manufacturing firms in the US and Europe where the concept does not mix with the Western culture.


Photo by Benjamin Grove

The Kaizen process is based on several rules but the underlying concepts are the same: Be open minded, maintain positive attitude, reject excuses and seek solutions. Kaizen is an established Japanese business practice that underpins much of the thinking behind JIT and Japanese business norms in general. It requires establishing a plan to change whatever needs to be improved. Then carry out changes on a small scale and observe and measure the results. Finally evaluate both the results and the process and then determine what has been learned.

Asprova displays the results of scheduling in the form of Gantt chart that allows manufacturing firms to draw up plans in advance and make small adjustments. This repeated action assists in improving overall performance of the entire workflow by increasing throughput and preventing late deliveries. Our Time Constraint Max feature also enhances the quality of products by controlling the maximum wait time between processes.

To learn more, please visit our e-Learning website.

Operations Management in the Supply Chain, The Official Course Book of The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, Profex Publishing Limited, 2010, Page 171

Kaizen Philosophy: Company Competiveness

Kaizen Philosophy: Company Competiveness

Wastes (muda) have all been caused by long production lead time and high levels of inventory. Both of these problems are related directly to each other and if the lead time excels, there is also a lot of inventory built up as well. You’ll understand better if you see the picture of iceberg. It is not an overstatement to say that almost all the costs of a company are hidden behind the problem of these both. Conversely, it can be said that reducing both is the best method of reduction of fix costs and variable costs.